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Making the decision to enroll in a private, Catholic high school is an exciting one, but it also comes with its questions and challenges. Light on The Hill is designed to keep prospective and current students — and their parents — up-to-date on news, thoughts, and events relevant to the mission and values at St. Lawrence Seminary High School. 

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7 Vital Skills To Be a Successful Student

pencil on paper

St. Lawrence Seminary teaches various techniques to help students to help themselves to get the most out of their high school career. One of the ways this is accomplished is with “Super Student Hints” which are a part of morning announcements.

Some of those “Super Student Hints” may be more practical in a boarding school situation, but many can apply beyond St. Lawrence to students in general. The following is a list of some of those hints.

1. Respect

It might seem a little strange to start a study skills list with the word respect, but this is an important trait for St. Lawrence Seminary students, and should be for any student. This respect is shown by the expectation that each student will greet each teacher when the student enters a classroom. During class, a student will use good posture to make sure that the student’s body language is demonstrating an eagerness to learn. And respect is necessary in respecting others’ points of view – even when they might be contrary to one’s own views. Learning how to respectfully disagree with others and express alternative views helps to make the classroom into a place where students can confidently express themselves and learn from each other.

2. Prepared For Class

Another important trait of a successful student is being prepared for class. Each student should have some sort of strategy (like an assignment calendar) so that each assignment can be written down. There’s a certain satisfaction that comes with checking off the assignments as they are finished, and having one place that provides an overview of what needs to be done allows the student to budget time to the various tasks that need to be accomplished. Having a plan for where the homework will be stored is important so that it can be handed in when it is due and not be lost in a morass of papers from many different classes.

3. Beyond the Basics

While getting homework finished and preparing for tests are important parts of being prepared for class, these are certainly not the only ways that a well-prepared student gets ready for class. While preparing for class, a diligent student will write down some questions to ask in class the next day. Or a serious student might get together with some classmates to discuss difficult concepts, learning from peers. Finally, a “Super Student” reviews what has gone before in the class, and also looks ahead in the textbook to see what is coming up.

4. Academic Honesty

Students cannot learn if they are doing their work dishonestly. The idea that any homework turned in with a student’s name is that student’s own work is the foundation of trust that must exist between teachers and students. Sometimes there are online resources that can enhance a student’s educational experience. Using these responsibly can be a useful way to augment classroom instruction. However, there are some websites whose very names betray the fact that they are meant as short-cuts for students, rather than as enrichment. A “Super Student” fights the temptation to take such shortcuts, in the same way that a good student fights the temptation to cheat on a test. Academic honesty has to be a given in order to get the most out of the educational experience.

5. A Test Every Day?

A very effective way for students to improve their academic achievement is to indulge in a little make believe: pretend that there is a test in every class every day. If students review every evening as if a test were scheduled for the next day, they will be preparing themselves well for the actual day when a test does take place. Learning a little at a time is more efficient and much easier than trying to “cram” a whole chapter or two the night before. When the test does come around, some students work first on the questions that are easiest for them so that they can gain some confidence before working on the more difficult questions.

6. Find the Study Techniques That Work For You

Since we all learn differently, students need to experiment to find out what works best for them. Here are some of the methods that are presented to St. Lawrence Seminary students:

Practice Tests

Some students find that their textbooks provide some extra practice problems (for example, in math classes), and often the answers are provided in the back of the textbook. Students can use these problems to compile a practice test that can make them feel much more confident when they approach the real test.

Flash cards

Some students find that using their hands can help them to learn. These students sometimes make flash cards for information that they need to learn. There are many advantages to this method. First, the students learn by the very fact of making the flashcards. Then they can continue to study the ones that are more difficult for them while putting aside the cards that have information that they have learned. The portability of flash cards make them ideal for studying in almost any environment. Some students prefer making flash cards via apps like Quizlet – which means that they can share their “flash cards” with their friends. Studying with friends can even be made into a simple card game.

Active Reading

When students are given a reading assignment, they often assume that the first (and only) thing they should do is to read the selection. However, they can learn much more if they first page through the assignment – noting section titles in bold print, pictures that provide a clue about the topic, and questions at the end of the section. In fact, sometimes reading the questions before reading the assignment can help students to concentrate their attention on the important concepts in the reading. These students always have a pencil and paper ready while they read so that they can write down questions that they can ask the next day in class.

7. Be a Well-Balanced Person

Participating in sports, clubs, volunteer opportunities, church activities, and family occasions helps students develop many useful skills, and allows them to keep a healthy balance in their lives. There is much that is learned outside the classroom – a student who participates in a wide variety of activities internalizes many important life lessons.

These are just a few of the many “Super Student” hints that are shared at St. Lawrence Seminary. Students are all different, so there is a bit of experimentation that has happen to find the best study skills for each person. But the results, when a student finds the right combination of skills, can be life changing.

St. Lawrence Seminary is an all boys Catholic boarding school located in Mt. Calvary, Wisconsin. We welcome students from Minnesota, Illinois and across the United States. Inspired by the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the example of St. Francis of Assisi, St. Lawrence Seminary provides a residential college preparatory education in a living Catholic community nurturing mature, well-rounded men of faith. See if St. Lawrence is right for you and your son.